Definitions(Terms are in plural form)
- (Hebrew) 'the coerced'. Jews who were converted to another religion by force. It was also applied to their descendants. Many of them continued to practice Judaism in secret.
- 'The converted'.
- Hidden; secret; of obscure origin.
- 'Swine' (pejorative). Term applied in Spain and Portugal by Christians to descendants of the coerced, baptized Jews suspected of adhering to Judaism.
- Willing converts from Judaism.
Divisions of Jewry in the Diaspora(Ashkenazim and Sephardim are the two main divisions)
- 'People of the north'. Originally German Jewry, later came to designate Jews of northern France, Poland, Russia and Scandinavia. Yiddish was widely spoken by Ashkenazim.
- People of the Levant. Jews of the eastern Mediterranean area that is now occupied by Lebanon and Syria and Israel.
- 'Eastern'. Jews of North African and Middle Eastern ancestry.
- Jews of South and East Asian ancestry.
- Jews of the Eastern Roman Empire, spread throughout much of Asia Minor (mostly under Roman control) before and after the destruction of the Temple. Latin speaking.
- Descendants of Jews whose ancestors lived on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). In Mediterranean countries the Sephardim spoke Judeo-Spanish (Ladino).
- Ethiopian Jews, Anusim, Karaites, Samaritans, and Lost Tribes.
SephardimSephardim, Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, spoke a Judeo-Spanish dialect, written in Hebrew script, called Ladino. Many were forced to convert to Christianity between 1391 and 1497. After the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 the Sephardim settled in north Africa, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, the Balkans, and the Turkish Empire. Subsequently these communities were reinforced by refugees from Portugal.
Large groups later settled in the Netherlands, the West Indies, and North America. They and their descendants founded the Jewish communities of Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, and New Amsterdam (New York City). As they moved to more tolerant lands, many conversos openly returned to Judaism.
The term 'Sephardim' today has a broader definition. It includes all Sephardic communities, including Jews whose country of origin is Greece, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.
AnusimA new and fascinating picture has emerged of descendants of those secret Jews living today as Catholics or Protestants but keeping alive family traditions which are unmistakably clear indications of Jewish origins.
Some families to this day light candles on Friday night, circumcise newborn sons, eat thin flat bread on Passover, use biblical names, and have family traditions of not eating pork. For the most part they consider such activities family traditions and did not ascribe them to Jewish identity until, in recent years, such facts have been made clear to them. Some have expressed interest in learning more about modern Judaism with a view toward re-entering the Jewish mainstream. Others are comfortable in their present religious affiliation but are intrigued by their history.
by Bernard I. Kouchel - A Jewish Gen InfoFile